New Castle News

Sports

November 25, 2013

Steve Treu: Steelers turn it around with turnovers

NEW CASTLE — Troy Polamalu attempted his patented psycho blitz into the line of scrimmage, only to be stopped cold in his tracks.

He bounced off right guard Shawn Lauvao and swiftly doubled back to his original position near midfield, five yards off the line.

Polamalu reset his feet, squared up and wrapped up fullback Chris Ogbonnaya. Then, like a blue-collar father arm-wrestling his preteen son, he dominated Ogbonnaya’s right arm with his own, muscling the ball free.

As both players fell to the ground the football pinballed between them, with Polamalu snatching it out of the air with cat-like quickness.

Tackle, strip, recovery … it was really a beautiful play, one of the finest of the veteran safety’s brilliant 11-year career.

It also was the turning point of the game, flipping a potential scoring opportunity for the Browns into a field goal for the Steelers that gave them a 13-3 halftime lead. Cleveland never reclaimed any momentum.

Sure, it was only the Browns, which the Steelers have defeated with the ease of a blue-collar father arm-wrestling his preteen son over the past 12 seasons. Pittsburgh has now won 22 of the past 25 meetings between these teams.

But no matter the opponent, this was a fairly complete football game played by the Steelers, a thorough 27-11 victory that was their fifth in the last seven contests.

Ben Roethlisberger was poised and efficient, completing 65 percent of his 34 attempts for two touchdowns and a 102.2 rating. Most importantly, he was turnover-free.

Antonio Brown continued his All-Pro caliber season, adding six more receptions onto his league lead in that category and scored his sixth touchdown.

Le’Veon Bell was workmanlike with 80 yards on 23 carries, several of which were hard, grinding runs for first downs. Since the rookie’s season began in Week 4, the Steelers are 5-3.

The rush defense, which had been yielding nearly 120 yards per game, gave up only 55. Josh Gordon shredded the secondary for 237 yards, but he has done that to several opponents this season and much of the damage he did was in garbage time after the outcome was no longer in doubt.

Shaun Suisham was perfect on all of his kicks and even the punting was competent, though Roethlisberger’s pooch was certainly more notable than anything Mat McBriar did.

It is nearing the home stretch and the Steelers are actually playing pretty good football. Certainly good enough to compete in the ridiculously mediocre AFC.

“It is not anything mystical or anything of that nature,” coach Mike Tomlin said of his team’s improved play.

Nope. They just turned the turnover game around. While starting 0-4, the Steelers were -11 in that category (11 committed, zero forced). Over the past seven games they are +7 (seven committed, 14 forced).

It’s a pretty easy game when you take care of the ball and the other team cannot.

It’s even easier when playmakers like Polamalu are demonstrating the execution and energy of an actual playoff contender.

(Steve Treu covers the Steelers for The News.)

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